As Iraqis prepare to hold a landmark election the BBC News website resumes its daily Iraq log. For two weeks, we will be publishing a range of accounts from people inside Iraq about their day-to-day lives.
In our third instalment, we hear about a wave of uncertainty that has swept the southern city of Basra, the thoughts of an American soldier and the concerns of a voter in the Sunni-Triangle town of Hit.
You can bookmark this page and come back to read the latest posts each day.
ELECTIONS BRING NEGATIVE ATMOSPHERE
Posted by Shehab Ahmad teacher/journalist, Basra, 26 January
Things have changed in Basra - the security situation has deteriorated since just before the Eid, when three candidates were assassinated and there was a series of attacks on polling centres.
It has caused a great deal of fear among candidates especially, some of whom have withdrawn their names from the ballot, but also among ordinary people, who are more worried about their safety now than at any time since the American invasion nearly two years ago.
People think it was probably a settling of scores between different interests that caused the violence. We've also witnessed a lot of election posters and banners being torn down or defaced by members of other parties and accusations that some candidates are taking foreign money or not acting in the interests of the Iraqi people. There is a very negative atmosphere around this election in what used to be a very open, tolerant city.
I said before that I wasn't going to vote in this election because I was opposed to it happening at this time, when the country is so clearly unprepared for it. But now after this violence I will vote and I know who I'm going to vote for, not for a party list but for a good candidate who I know will be right for Iraq. It's the only weapon I have.
SUNNIS NEED TO LOOK AROUND AND DO THE MATHS
Lieutenant Bryan Suits US soldier, Baghdad, 26 January
A press photographer posed me for a picture in the bustling Karada neighbourhood yesterday. He had me sit with an old man in front of an Allawi poster.
The effect was a kitted-up American speaking with a wizened old man with Allawi's eyes watching all. I would have lectured him about capturing a phoney image and the issue of integrity in the news, but I've been here for 11 months and know better.
I'm paying for the constant rehash of Abu Ghraib. Whoever those people were, they should hope I never meet them. I know the UK forces are professional and not represented by a photo of a smiling squaddie suspending a guy from a fork lift. When I hand out free mud boots to kids in my area, nobody but my men are there for photos.
I hope the violence on election day is minimal. Judging from past events the violence will be concentrated in urban, high profile areas. The transition of authority in late June 2004 was handled well and the result was little of the anticipated violence occurring.
Many Westerners say a civil war will break out in the wake of Sunday's result. It's assured the Shia parties will win a clear majority. But the threat of wholesale Sunni boycotts indicate someone is speaking or thinking for the Sunni Arabs in Iraq. If the promised boycott occurs, it would be incredibly foolish. The Sunni have a chance to be part of government in relation to their numbers. They haven't acknowledged that they had 80% of the pie for several generations. That time is over and they need to look around and do some quick maths.
Security is still the primary issue and the key to that is Iraqis taking responsibility. I know the terrorists are only one out of 5,000 Iraqis, but until they drive marked cars, my men must assume that every car is a potential threat.
However, I should point out that transporting children in the open boot of your car isn't safe and Americans are in no way responsible for this curious and common practice. Nor did we teach people to transport gasoline in open containers with a bit of plywood as a lid and a brick holding it down. The result after the driver lights a cigarette is, in fact, entirely predictable and has little do with God's will.
NOT SURE MY VOTE IS IMPORTANT
Posted by Abu Harith shop manager, Hit, 26 January
The government is proposing to lead people and improve their lives, but first they have to make sure they have stabilised the economy. They have to convince people that they will be able to give them a better life, or no one will participate in the election. I do not think my vote is important. Once they have convinced us all that our votes are important - they can take things forward.
In the past 48 hours things have been quite calm around here, I keep hearing planes overhead, American planes heading to their main air base. I can see them in the distance. I see them so often I can tell which type they are, so can my children.
When they fly over at night, my daughter, she is only small, she comes to me and my wife, puts her hand on my arm and says "What is happening, my father?" I try to console her, to convince her that it will be all right.
Children in Iraq are off school at the moment. Just before they began their holiday one morning, the teachers sent all the children home because the aircraft flying overhead were so loud they worried there was going to be an attack.
Now, we just try to keep them safe and entertained. They have their television, their satellite TV (which they love), their computers... it keeps them diverted. Before kids would play with their kites, their paper airplanes... it's very different now!
Many people around here have been moving around, trying to find shelter, safer places away from the main areas of the cities. It is hard to feel safe in our homes at the moment.
One reason is the election, the other is the city itself. For three or four months there have been problems. US marines have been inside the city and I've heard they can be abusive. I've heard they have collected people randomly and put them in jail and not all of them are guilty. It makes people afraid.
These are some of the comments we have received so far about this log.
Some of the comments refer to previous logs:
I have witnessed elections in the world's largest democracy and have voted in my country's last elections, but have never imagined that any part of the world could hold elections where candidates fear revealing there identities, election workers go underground and polling centres to be revealed at the last hour. Candidates who are fearful of revealing their identities cannot be trusted and voters searching for polling centres at polling day is ridiculous. If the elections in Iraq are meant to bring democracy, this will be a wrong start and will not endure
Abdoulie Ceesay, Banjul, The Gambia
I strongly believe that the day of election is the first birthday of Iraq
Salih, London, UK
To Muhammad, Iraq: Although I disagree with your viewpoint, the fact that you are free to share your views without fear of being imprisoned or executed by your government for sharing them, is the reason for democracy. The terrorists, on the other hand, are obviously willing to kill anyone who stands in their way. This is all the more reason to vote. Even in democracy there are winners and losers, but overall, and over time, everybody wins.
In Basra you wouldn't be amazed if there are any problems there because it is heading for elections and many people look like they are going to vote. Militants try to attack the area to cause problems. Everyone should vote, every vote counts. Abu Harith should vote in elections. I urge all Iraqis to vote. It is important to vote. Never get put off by those militants. We are a ancient country and we are proud of the oil-rich country. Please all Iraqis vote!
Sami Ibrahim, London, UK
To Bryan Suits: I salute you and your mates for your seemingly thankless job. The press is a propaganda machine and must be taken as such. The posing of people and the (sometimes)fabrication of events is made for sales and ratings. There are true journalists out there, filming the truth, not posing people. I wish they were there beside you that day passing out the boots, showing the compassion, showing that not everyone is there to do harm. Thank you and all of the men and women fighting for the Iraqis. Stay safe.
Ernest Gollan Jr, Vienna, United States
Terry (from Georgia) hit the nail on the head. Most just are thinking of Iraq as an American project and a trophy to eventually display and do not care about Iraqis at all. We think "elections" is a magic word - but what would an election in the US be like for us if every candidate was simply aspiring middle management for some or other foreign power? Would we call that a bright future for freedom?
Omar, Edinburg, TX, USA
My son is going back to Iraq to serve. Do I wish he were staying home and safe? Do we argue about our role in helping people have freedom of choice without fear of reprisal? Yes. There are no simple answers. What I do know is that he will come home when things are more stable - yet to be defined. As we prepared for his second deployment, we met many soldiers who just returned. Without hesitation, all spoke highly of the Iraqi people, their courage, conviction and graciousness. Best to all as you struggle to form a representative government, something that will take time and perseverance.
Linda, Mineral, Virginia, USA
Good luck to all people who have the courage to vote. It's courage that you need in the face of adversity and courage that will pull Iraq from dark, violent times into paradise and light. Do not be afraid of using your own great power in voting. Democracy always works, eventually, but like anything man-made, you will evolve your own version of it to suit your own peoples needs once foreign powers withdraw from your borders. The future's bright for Iraq, I feel deeply positive for you all and hope that sense comes to those who look to cause grief for whatever reasons.
Jonny Tooze, Guildford, UK
When the people in Iraq have their election on Sunday there will definitely be problems. But the world should realise that the real significance of the election is not for the immediate future but for the long term. This is significant for the generations that follow. The Iraqis who vote on Sunday are pioneers for future generations.
Colin Baker, Dayton, Ohio, USA
I hope for all the best for the forthcoming election for the people of Iraq. This kind of killing of innocent people should stop. Although at present there are many hindrances the people of Iraq should cross their fingers. There is always a sunny day after a cloudy day and for the leaders who stand up on the day, please play your part for the betterment of all. God bless all six of those writing here.
Salen Singh, Suva, Fiji Islands
I am inspired by the courage of these people to take control of their country which was under siege by such a brutal regime, which my country supported for so many years, and its not something we are proud of. I commend these people and hope that the democratic values come forth. However, we must teach the world that democracy is not a pure democracy. The majority can allow their hopes to be put into effect by the vote. Furthermore, Iraqis must know that if they have religious principles that cannot be violated, this can be incorporated into their governmental system.
Michael, Troy, Michigan, USA
I, too, pray for the swift recovery of the Iraqi nation and her people. I want to mention that in Oregon, USA, we vote by mail, so that means no voters massing in vulnerable polling stations. I don't know what the state of your postal system is but I thought I'd share the idea.
Bruce, Portland, Oregon, USA
My family is mixed, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish. I have asked Iraqis abroad and those inside Iraq who they would vote for and most of them said that they would vote for the best one. If somebody is a Shia, you wouldn't always expect them to vote for a Shia group, they can vote for anyone they wish. I advise all Iraqis to vote in elections. This includes Iraqis abroad and Iraqis in Iraq. A vote is the strongest weapon against militants. Everyone hopes for a peaceful Iraq.
Sami Ibrahim, London, UK
Why do we only hear about the awful events in Iraq via AP, CBC, BBC and all the news services, and not a word of praise for the Afghanistan success? Which is a good model for the Iraq democratic conversion. Could it be that good news and the wrong president of this country make for bad journalism reporting their colleagues would frown upon? The ex-Iraqis who are now voting around the world know the truth - that someone has to confront the dictatorships of the Middle East and are thankful that courageous Mr Bush has done the thankless job. This time the people will prevail in Iraq.
Jim Miller, Vista, CA USA
It is great that the BBC is providing a voice for those inside Iraq to reflect upon the events leading to their historic vote. It is too bad that the American media is not doing a similar job and focusing so much on only the problems in Iraq. I commend those Iraqis that are standing for this election by putting the good of their future ahead of their personal security. The elections will mark one more step on the path of a better Iraq, where minority groups will hopefully never face oppression again.
Keith, Pittsburgh, PA USA
In the days ahead, it is my wish and that of millions in the USA, that Iraq begin the long and difficult process towards democracy by voting this coming week. May each of you find the courage to take this monumental first step - without knowing its outcome but with hope for better times for your country and your fellow countrymen. In the years ahead, looking back to this time, I hope that you will be counted with those who helped transform Iraq into a great country that won out over tyranny and injustice.
Diana Belliveau, Santa Cruz, USA, Santa Cruz, USA
Just a quick comment directed at Zeina. I wish you all the best in the up-coming elections, your courage, if imitated by others, will bring Iraq out of the situation it is currently in.
Ali al-Saffar, London, England
To John Uri, Sydney, Australia: Who told you that Shia are not retaliating against Sunni? There is no fear of a civil war in Iraq because it is already happening. This election is taking far more media coverage than it deserves. America is only interested in a democracy (or any form of it) that will only bring its collaborators to power. What's the point of running an election if it is already known who the winners are?. I personally - as a Sunni - don't mind Shia leaders provided they are loyal to Iraq and not to America or Iran. I can't see any like that, though.
That is the beauty of first elections in newly democratic countries - look at election in Afghanistan or the Palestinian election. People who have never experienced democracy want democracy. In the US, we are lucky to see half of the electorate go to the polls. I think Iraqis will go to the polls even if they don't know whom the candidates are. Good choice, bad choice - they won't care. It is their choice.
Ian, Austin, Texas, USA
I salute you brave Tariq al-Ani. Today, I live in a peaceful and very prosperous Malaysia. That wasn't so when I was growing up in the 1960s. In Sarawak, where I lived, my father and many others of like mind was negotiating with the British for a free and independent nation. We had a Communist insurgency then and the British troops were helping us fight it. We faced house to house searches by British soldiers and I remember we doubted our neighbours their loyalty to the new order. The Communist and others were opposed to the ordinary man having a vote and of a government that was democratic. It was a struggle over ideology. But the people won and the nation of Malaysia, a successful, prosperous and most importantly a popularly elected Government in charge is evident for the whole world to see. So do not give in, your Children needs your courage to look back on to with pride.
Ranen Bhattacharyya, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Iraqi citizens deserve a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The only way they will get it is by voting. Democracy will be won by the vote, not by the bomb. Keep your eyes open and report all suspicious activities to the proper authorities. Vote, vote, vote!
Richard Brooks, Kennett Square, USA
These logs provide a unique window to the hearts and minds of people in Iraq. It seems Iraq has long been cursed with misfortune: Saddam's tyranny, Iran-Iraq War, Invasion of Kuwait, 1st Gulf War, 12 years of sanctions, 2nd Gulf War, occupation, insurgency, terrorism, lack of basic necessities, fear, and so on. But the Baathists must sooner or later understand they are destroying their own country and that dialogue with other Iraqis is the way forward. Good luck to Iraqis for the elections and beyond.
Rajesh Arya, Berlin, Germany
I commend the BBC for publishing a diverse and honest picture of daily life in Iraq leading up to the elections. I think it reinforces the notion that people in Iraq would like fair government but right now they need security, employment, and the fulfilment of their basic needs. A puppet "democracy" doesn't mean much of anything to someone who cannot leave their home to work or pursue an education. My hopes are with those in Iraq who fear for their lives daily and struggle to make ends meet. It remains to be seen if the imposition of "democratic rule" will solve their desperate situation.
Jane, Sydney, Australia
I cannot express how much it means to read about everyday life in Iraq from people who are living through what is unimaginable to most of us. I do a lot of election work on the state and national level (not for the party currently in power) I have never been as embarrassed about our terrible voting turnouts as I have been reading these accounts. God bless each and very one of you.
Hank Brown, Wethersfield, Connecticut, USA
In an election where the names of the candidates are not published and the election sites are not yet known it is the words of Tariq al-Ani's son who said "How do I elect Allawi? by shooting him?" that should resonate in our mind so that we see how the elections are not exactly the glorified success that the US media consistently portrays. I really wish that non-Iraqi people would stop being so uselessly enthusiastic and encourage people to be courageous and vote. Would they themselves risk dying and leaving their families to toil in the unstable environment to vote in an election? My prayers are with the people of Iraq.
Anca Tutuianu, Toronto, Canada
Thank you for publishing these logs, BBC. We incessantly hear about how terribly wrong the war is here, but reading these logs are a good reminder of why freedom and democracy are so vital. My prayers go out to Tariq al-Ani and his fellow countrymen and women, and to all of the troops risking their lives to give this incredible country a chance at democracy.
Marina Wolf, Denver, United States
As an Iraqi-American, of Assyrian heritage, I applaud and thank the brave Iraqi people for their stand against tyranny and total support for democracy and rule of law. Future generations will look back at this period in time and thank the US/UK for their stand in Iraq against evil.
Mazin E, USA
Why are there no loggers from the Kurdistan region? They would have been more fun as the security there is better.
Timsa, London, UK
I'm in Iraq just now doing a six-week tour and already things are hotting up. The streets are very busy with crowds of people and feuds and fights are breaking out through out the city of Basra. Here the families and civilians don't know what way to take us - whether we are friendly or an enemy.
Anon, Glasgow, Scotland
The Iraqi people are caught between the world's superpower and the Arab world. This struggle will last for years and no one can determine the outcome now. Put your family first in all that you do and say! Be respectful to the soldiers on each side. Try to be invisible as much as you can until the outcome is clearer. Each side wants you to be on their side but both sides have made it clear that civilians are expendable. Pray for God's protection.
Terry, Athens, Georgia, USA
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